Malky Mackay lost a destabilizing power struggle with Cardiff’s divisive owner Friday and became the fourth Premier League manager to be fired this month.
Owner Vincent Tan said he was compelled to dismiss Mackay because he felt the “dirty linen” being exposed about the dispute was creating a distraction.
Mackay was dismissed just five days after being told by the south Wales club that he would remain in charge for the “foreseeable future.”
Despite that assurance, there was a caveat that the former Celtic and Norwich defender had to heal his rift with Tan, which seemed unlikely given the owner’s apparent reluctance to meet with him in recent months.
The Malaysian owner and Mackay clashed over the dismissal of head of recruitment Iain Moody in October. And Mackay’s future at the south Wales club seemed to be doomed when he received an ultimatum last week from Tan to resign or be fired in an email that listed grievances against the manager.
Tan finally decided Friday, one day after a 3-0 loss to Southampton, to fire the manager and go public about the turmoil at the club.
“There has been a good deal of publicity generated by and about Mr. Malky Mackay over the last few months. Indeed far too much dirty linen has been exposed to the public gaze,” Tan said in a statement. “But, I stress, not by me. Indeed, I have deliberately not responded to this, hoping that the club can be judged on its football rather than personalized arguments about who said what to whom.
“I have, however, regretfully concluded that it is no longer fair to the club, its players, its fans, or the public more generally, for this uncomfortable state of affairs to continue. Cardiff City Football Club means far too much to us all for it to be distracted by this.”
Tan, who bought Cardiff in 2010, already had alienated some supporters by changing the club’s colors from blue to red and adopting a new crest.
The lingering uncertainty over Mackay’s future fuelled further protests against Tan’s running of the club at matches, with the tensions overshadowing Cardiff’s first season in the Premier League. Now the team is only one point above the relegation zone.
Upset by the axing of the popular Mackay, the main fans’ group urged Tan to listen to their concerns.
“Recent off the field controversies have damaged the relationship between the club and fans,” the Cardiff City’s Supporters’ Trust said in a statement. “One way Mr. Tan could build bridges with supporters would be to return the playing kit to blue at the earliest opportunity.”
Cardiff paid no tribute in its statement to the 41-year-old manager who took them into the Premier League for the first time and is widely admired across the game, particularly for his conduct during the standoff with Tan.
“It’s a sad day for him, but it’s something that he probably felt was on the cards anyway, so I think it’s best for him that there’s closure on that,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who was previously in charge at Cardiff rival Swansea.
Mackay, who took Cardiff to the League Cup final in 2012, had a contract through June 2016.
“He’s going to be an outstanding manager at the top level for many years, Malky,” Rodgers said. “He will recover, come back fighting and show that he’s the great manager he is.”
Assistant manager David Kerslake and first-team coach Joe McBride have been put in temporary charge for the Sunderland game.
The bookmakers’ favorite to replace Mackay is former Manchester United forward Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, who has established himself as a manager in his home country of Norway, winning the league twice with Molde.
Solksjaer would be swapping apparent job security in Norway for a high-pressure relegation battle in the Premier League.
Five of the bottom six teams already have changed their managers this season.
Sunderland was the first — replacing Paolo Di Canio with Guy Poyet — and Ian Holloway was next out at Crystal Palace with Tony Pulis coming in. Fulham then replaced Martin Jol at the start of December with Rene Meulensteen, and West Bromwich Albion still has a vacancy after dismissing Steve Clarke.
The only firing in the top half of the standings so far was Andre Villas-Boas by Tottenham last week. He was replaced by Tim Sherwood.